Statement by NATO Secretary General on further decisions following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury
The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on NATO territory. On March 14, NATO Allies made clear their deep concern, and condemnation of this reckless breach of international norms.
Since then, intensive consultations have taken place among Allies, including here at NATO and in capitals. Those consultations have resulted so far in the expulsion of over 140 Russian officials by over 25 NATO Allies and partners.
This is a broad, strong and coordinated international response. And as part of that response, NATO is unified in taking further steps.
I have today withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian Mission to NATO.
I will also deny the pending accreditation request for three others.
And the North Atlantic Council has reduced the maximum size of the Russian Mission to NATO by ten people, in line with my decision.
This will bring the maximum size down to twenty.
This sends a clear message to Russia that there are costs and consequences for its unacceptable and dangerous pattern of behaviour.
And it follows Russia’s lack of constructive response to what happened in Salisbury.
Our actions reflect the serious security concerns expressed by all Allies, and are part of the coordinated international effort to respond to Russia’s behaviour.
They are proportionate, and in line with our legal obligations.
Today’s decision does not change NATO’s policy towards Russia.
NATO remains committed to our dual-track approach of strong defence and openness to dialogue, including by working to prepare the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
And with that I’m ready to take your questions.
Q (Sky News): Couple of question if I may. First of all what difference in practical terms will these expulsions make? Cause some will say yes it’s united but somewhat superficial can you give some details of what material difference this will make the expelling of these diplomats if that’s what they are. And my second question. What changed last week because I know that European leaders went in to a dinner with Theresa May and they were, they told us somewhat sceptical on their way in by the time they came out, things had changed completely. Can you give us your sense on the evolution of opinion last week?
SECRETARY GENERAL: What we’ve seen over actually several days and a couple weeks is that there has been close coordination between NATO Allies, partners, EU members, NATO members, on how to respond to the Salisbury attack and to the pattern of reckless behaviour by Russia. And we adopted very strong statement by NATO on 14 March. National Security Adviser Sedwill met with the North Atlantic Council and also Boris Johnson came to NATO headquarters. And we discussed potential measures including the expulsion of Russian diplomats. So as a result of this consultation between NATO Allies, many of them are also EU members, many NATO Allies and partners decided then to expel Russian diplomats. And we also have some new announcements today and then we have the announcement not only by NATO Allies today and yesterday but also by the NATO Alliance today, to reduce maximum number of diplomats accredited to NATO from 30 to 20. A reduction by 10. So this has been part of a political process which is the response to the broader picture we see with reckless behaviour, the lack of constructive response from the Russian side and therefore the need to send a very clear message.
The practical implication is of course that Russia will have a reduced capability to do intelligence work in NATO countries and in those countries they are expelled from. And therefore this is a clear and very strong message that it has costs and consequences to behave the way Russia has behaved.
Q (WSJ): Mr. Secretary General, are these expulsions enough to raise the costs to Moscow or is this more of a first step to deter interference in the West? And secondly, won’t reducing the size of the Russian mission complicate the diplomacy side of deter in diplomacy? Isn’t harder to talk to them if they have fewer diplomats?
SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, Russia will still have a diplomatic mission to NATO. And the size of that mission, maximum 20 diplomats, is big enough to facilitate the political dialogue between NATO and Russia. And as I said, we are not changing our approach to Russia which is still based on a dual-track approach meaning strong deterrence and defence and dialogue. And we will continue to prepare for the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. This is a response, this is a clear message, but this is not a change of our policy. We will continue to work for meaningful political dialogue with Russia. Then I think we also have to understand that of course what triggered this was Salisbury attack. But it is part of a broader response by NATO Allies to a pattern of an unacceptable and dangerous behaviour by Russia.
We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, we have seen cyberattacks, we have seen hybrid tactics, we have seen Russia investing heavily in modern military equipment and the willingness to use military force against neighbours. And all of that has led to an adaptation of NATO where we also strengthen our capabilities when it comes to dealing with hybrid tactics, cyberattacks, but also now increase in defence spending. Investing more in our defence which includes also that NATO Allies now have more resources to invest for instance in equipment and technology to detect and also protect against chemical attacks. So this announcement today is part of a broader pattern, a broader response by NATO Allies to a pattern of reckless behaviour by Russia.
Q (NPR / Deutsche Welle): Maybe you should change your approach. Because after Crimea you downsized the mission you took away some accreditations and yet you see these acts from Moscow. Apparently it hasn’t work. So do you think, as my colleague asked, will this make a difference?
SECRETARY GENERAL: It sends a very clear message to Russia that it has costs. And I actually think that Russia has underestimated the unity of NATO Allies. The way we have responded, the unity we have shown, both when it comes to implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. With the battle groups to the East and part of the Alliance. But also with a higher readiness of forces, and with the fact that after years of reducing defence investments we are now increasing defence investments. I don’t think that Russia expected that. Second, I don’t think they expected that NATO Allies with partners have been able to agree and to stand united in implementing economic sanctions.
So the combination of increased military presence, more defence spending, and economic sanctions by NATO Allies and other countries, is a very strong response, and which imposes costs on Russia because of their behaviour since the illegal annexation of Crimea. And then on top of that, we see a very unified response by NATO Allies and many partners to the Salisbury attack. What I said is that we will still have dual-track approach to Russia, meaning deterrence, defence and dialogue, but we are changing the way we do that. Partly because we have significantly increased and strengthened our deterrence and defence and we’ll continue to do so, second we have suspended all practical cooperation with Russia, but thirdly we continue to strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia and therefore we continue to also work for a meaningful political dialogue, which includes the preparations for next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.